New Wigan campaign to increase biodiversity launched

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Two Wiganers with a passion for environment want to make the town's urban spaces greener and more wildlife-friendly.

Give It A Grow Wigan has been launched by friends Victoria Finch and Alison Ball to increase biodiversity in the borough’s built-up areas.

They are hoping to get more wildflowers growing in Wigan and leave open and green spaces in a wilder and more natural condition to benefit birds, bees, butterflies and other creatures.

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Victoria and Alison have also got the campaign under way by doing some litter picking around their homes and hope their work will encourage residents to take more pride in where they live.

Give It A Grow Wigan founders Victoria Finch and Alison BallGive It A Grow Wigan founders Victoria Finch and Alison Ball
Give It A Grow Wigan founders Victoria Finch and Alison Ball

Victoria, from Springfield, said Wigan has a number of impressive areas reserved for nature and large patches of countryside but she felt more could be done on residents’ own doorsteps.

The 32-year-old, from Springfield, said: “The reserves and woodlands in Wigan are really well maintained and have come a long way but the urban spaces seem to be either totally left or highly manicured, with nothing in between.

“We want people to feel empowered to do more with their gardens and do more with parks, community gardens and recreational spaces.

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“The main thing is planting more wildflower seeds and more pollinating flowers. We want to reduce the use of weedkiller because it’s quite harmful for the soil and there are areas where we could make a difference by just leaving it and letting the natural grasses grow.

“We are also doing litter picking because that is a problem everywhere. It’s also about stopping microplastics getting into rivers and soils. People don’t realise there is plastic in cigarette butts.”

Victoria and Alison have been enthusiastic about looking after the environment for some time and as a hobby have participated in activities like creating wildlife gardens.

Victoria, who owns a business called Digital Finch doing design, animation and video work, was then spurred into action after walking around the area where she lives.

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She said: “I just thought it was really sparse, there were lots of areas that weren’t really being used for anything.

“If an area doesn’t look so good people will then throw trash on it and won’t care.

“I went out a few hundred metres from my house litter picking and got four big bags of rubbish, a broken sign and a box full of bedding.

“I just think that if more areas had flowers people would appreciate the neighbourhood more and be proud of it. They would then want to do more to make it nicer.

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“I think wild spaces are beautiful, they are also good for bees and pollinators so it’s a win-win situation and better for everyone.”

Give It A Grow Wigan was then founded with teaching assistant Alison from Standish, for whom looking after the environment in the borough is a family affair as her young daughter Ember has an enthusiasm for wildlife and has previously helped the council with campaigns about rubbish and recycling.

The duo are in early talks with a number of community groups, including the volunteers who are currently sprucing up the green space next to St Anne’s Church in Beech Hill to turn it into a local outdoor hub.

They also want to speak to Wigan Council as a number of their aims will involve work being done by the local authority.

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Victoria says that so far the feedback they have received on Give It A Grow Wigan’s ideas have been extremely positive.

They hope to plant more pollinating flowers and native wildflowers in open spaces across Wigan, with community gardens and parks perhaps having corners where these are encouraged to thrive.

Give It A Grow Wigan says borders and sections of fields can be used to creature mini corridors and meadows where creatures can live and be supported.

They are also looking at doing more to plant up some of the 60 hectares or so of grass verges around pavements and roads across the borough.

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In addition Give It A Grow Wigan wants to work with residents and help them do more to encourage nature in their gardens.

Victoria and Alison are also hoping to encourage the town hall to do much less mowing of grass verges and other open spaces which could instead be allowed to flourish naturally.

They are also keen to encourage the council to use a lot less of the weedkiller glyphosate, the active chemical in Roundup, which is deployed across the country in spring and summer but which ends up killing off ecosystems in the soil as well as running into waterways through surface water and ground water.

Give It A Grow Wigan says too little is known about the potential long-term harms and effects of glyphosate and wants to encourage Wiganers to make more eco-friendly choices when gardening.

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The campaign hopes a more biodiverse and greener Wigan will boost residents’ wellbeing, save the borough money on maintaining green spaces with fertilisers and artificial products as well as clearing litter and boost community spirit.

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